Product Review: Sun shirts

April 15, 2021

I love being outside. And I have always been good about slathering on ample sunblock, but sometimes that is just not enough.

I have had two run-ins with skin cancer. The first one was basal cell carcinoma last winter. The doctors cut it out. Not such a big deal, but still a concern. This winter was stage one Melanoma and required quite a large cut into my cheek to be cut out. Much scarier.

I do spend a lot of time outdoors riding my pony, and competing, which generally takes place in the warmer (ie. sunnier) months, also generally on reflective all weather footing for long stretches of time. This is unavoidable. So I decided to invest in some sun shirts.

I am a hot person, and I work indoors in a nice climate controlled environment, and generally am poorly adapted to the humid muggy sun blasting summers we have in the Mid-Atlantic region of the USA. This has only gotten worse as I have gotten older, and unfortunately, fatter. Which is a whole other topic we will not delve into today.

So what do we want in a sun shirt?
1. Full coverage. sleeves long enough to cover the tops of my hands being key.

2. Breathable. As mentioned I get hot quickly, so this shirt has got to breath.

3. Fit. I want a shirt loose and long enough to cover my belly. Being comfortable is very important. I do not want a shirt that rides up or is restrictive.

4. Cost. I would say cost is also important, and it is, but the first three points far out weigh cost. Especially considering there are not that many options available, and they all seem to have pretty hefty price tags. And shoot, after paying all my medical bills from these two cancer extractions, these shirts are not comparably that expensive.

The Sun Shirts

Amazon SPF50 Sun Shirt – This shirt was $14.99 making it by a long shot the cheapest. It arrived quickly and I wore it to work, you know that nice climate controlled office I mentioned, as a test. It was way too hot. As in, this shirt did not breath at all. I was sweaty and hot and uncomfortable all day, and it was not that hot out, and I was inside most of the day! I suppose this might be considered a “rash guard” shirt, more for surfing or being in the water. It was thick, did not breath, and reminded me of my winter base layers for particularly cold days. It was comfortable and did have full coverage and a good price tag, but it was simply too hot. Complete fail.

Ariat Sunstopper 2.0 – I got this one in imperial blue, which is such a lovely color. I ordered it off of Amazon for $63, and was impressed with the color options. It is pretty thin material and the cut is nice. But I felt like I would need to size up two full sizes to make it work. It did cover my hands but was just too fitted in general. It is sadly also made out of pretty thick material. Although it does feel like it would breath, it wouldn’t breath enough. A step closer but still not making the cut.

Tuff Rider Vented Technical Shirt – I got this one in navy blue with white off of Amazon for a rather respectable price of $30. The white under the arms is very thin, almost like a veil. Sort of a rough scratchy, vs thin and flowy material but it does appear it would breath very well. But the rest of the shirt is thick. Very thick. Like its not going to breath thick, so that your only air flow is under the arms. I do like the cut and it fit pretty true to size. I think with the thickness I would want to size up one size just to add some airflow, but I do not think that would be enough to reach the cooling effect I am looking for.

Performa Ride Technical Riding Shirt – Being that Performa Ride is out of Australia I spoke to a company rep before I ordered this shirt to get a better idea of sizing and I opted to size up one size for a looser fit. It was $60. I was originally attracted to this shirt due to a post by the company I saw on Face Book of a custom shirt they had done for an endurance team. It was lovely work and the shirt really did appear to be light and breathable. Upon receiving it, I was correct about the breathability. I like the thin material, it is well made and has teeny tiny little holes all through it for air flow. I love the fit and found it it covered my hands well. But it was still tighter than I would like in a sun shirt and it also felt like it would ride up if I did not size up again. Super close but still not a win.

Kerrits Ice Fill Shirt – I grabbed one in Navy off of Amazon for $60. I do have two rather old Kerrits sun shirts I purchased maybe ten years ago. I think I scored them off of TackoftheDay.com. I wore them constantly and both are still in pretty darn good condition so I was really hopeful the current version of these shirts would make the cut. The current season of the Kerrits Solid Ice Fill Shirts comes in Navy, Black, and White. I also found some discounted patterned ones which I am not sure but suspect they may be last years editions. This shirt is so thin. It is full of teeny tiny holes that allow air flow, but the material itself is thin and light but structurally sound. It is far far lighter than any of the other shirts I tried, and even lighter than the older Kerrits sun shirts I have. The cut is great, the new line is slightly longer than my older versions, which is preferred, and the sleeves cover the tops of my hands. As soon as I put this shirt on I knew it was a win so I grabbed my pony and went for a gallop to try it out in practice and I was still happy. The next day I went to purchase more of this shirt and was already having trouble finding the color/size combos I wanted. It took a bit of work but I eventually found another navy one, one of the previous years patterned ones (on sale!), and some white ones. I was not able to find black in my size. These shirts also come in a short sleeved version, so if you are not so worried about sun protection, but want a nice airflowing collared shirt for lessons the short sleeve is lovely. And perhaps more long sleeves will be available as we actually reach the hot, muggy, and sunny months yet to come.

The winner is the Kerrits Ice Fill!

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